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Experts Who Hacked U.S. Air Force Earned $130,000

Hundreds of bug bounty hunters signed up for the U.S. Department of Defense’s “Hack the Air Force” initiative and they earned more than $130,000 for the vulnerabilities they reported.

Between May 30 and June 23, the Pentagon invited vetted researchers, members of the military and government civilians from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to take a crack at the Air Force’s networks. Hack the Air Force, hosted by the HackerOne platform, was the most open federal program to date.

A total of 272 hackers signed up and they submitted 207 valid vulnerability reports. The first flaw was reported in less than one minute of the bug bounty program’s launch.

The more than 200 vulnerabilities earned participants over $130,000, an average of $644 per flaw.

Only two of the white hat hackers who submitted valid reports were employed by the military. The researcher who earned the most was a 17-year-old who submitted 30 valid reports.

“Adversaries are constantly attempting to attack our websites, so we welcome a second opinion — and in this case, hundreds of second opinions — on the health and security of our online infrastructure,” said Peter Kim, CISO of the U.S. Air Force. “By engaging a global army of security researchers, we’re better able to assess our vulnerabilities and protect the Air Force’s efforts in the skies, on the ground and online.”

While the Hack the Air Force initiative is over, experts who find vulnerabilities in the organization’s systems can still report them to the Pentagon through its ongoing vulnerability disclosure program.

A total of 371 people registered for the previous Hack the Army program and they were awarded roughly $100,000 for 118 valid vulnerability reports. Hack the Pentagon received 138 valid submissions and it cost the U.S. government $150,000, half of which went to participants.

Related: Pentagon to Launch More Bug Bounty Programs

Related: HackerOne Offers Free Service to Open Source Projects

Related: HackerOne Penetrates VC Pockets for $40 Million

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.